Kiss FM wins new Yorkshire radio licence

They'll be dancing to new tunes in Yorkshire following the award last night of the new regional radio licence to Kiss FM, sister of the dance music radio station currently operating in Manchester.

The hotly contested award by the Radio Authority could revive concerns, however, about the growing concentration of national advertising sales, already dominated by MSM, the sale house owned by Capital Radio.

Kiss, owned by a consortium led by Eastern Counties Newspapers and local partners called Faze Two, will use MSM to handle its sales, the company confirmed last night. In its original application, it had promised to use IRS, the only real competition, but IRS collapsed earlier this year when media giant Emap moved significant business to MSM.

With the new Yorkshire licence now in the MSM camp, Capital's share, already at 61 per cent, will go much higher, leading to renewed concerns over conditional selling and other potential abuses of monopoly position.

The Office of Fair Trading has so far refused at act, arguing that Capital has given assurances that it will not act in an anti-competitive manner.

The Incorporated Society of British Advertisers said last night that its earlier warnings about concentration in the market had gone unheeded. "All I can say tonight is I told you so," John Hooper, the ISBA's director, said.

Guy Hornsby, managing director of Kiss 102 in Manchester, said that a dedicated sales force within MSM would handle the Kiss account in Yorkshire, and dismissed concerns about concentration.

The award to Kiss FM comes just 18 months after the launch of the company's Manchester service, which has proven one of the most successful in commercial radio. The company leases its brand name, Kiss, from Emap, which owns the Kiss 100 dance station in London. Emap will provide some marketing support, but has no equity position in the Yorkshire licence holder.

However, competitors warned last night that the Emap connection could lead to a change in ownership in the future. "If the Kiss brand is so successful in Yorkshire, it won't be long before Emap starts to think about taking the name back," said a senior executive at one of the rival Yorkshire bidders.

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